ISLAMABAD - Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial Monday questioned the federal government’s reaction to an adverse decision of the court about the Punjab chief minister election and said, “does it reflect any respect for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary? I simply leave the matter there.”
He, however, added that the court will not hesitate to act if the Constitution and/or the constitutional institutions are undermined, violated or attacked.
The CJP expressed these views while addressing the opening ceremony of the New Judicial Year 2022-23, which was also addressed by Attorney General for Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf, Vice-Chairman Pakistan Bar Council Hafiz-ur-Rehman and President
Supreme Court Bar Association Ahsan Bhoon. He said, “with utmost respect, I ponder, does such a reaction by the federal government to an adverse decision of the court reflect any respect for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary? I simply leave the matter there.”
He reiterated the court’s commitment to defend the Constitution in its entirety. The CJP urged all the political parties, their leaders, all decision makers and privileged members of the society to put aside their differences and grievances and act in unity for the public interest and the national good. He also said that the political events taking place since March 2022 have been accompanied by an avalanche of political cases involving complex questions of constitutional law.
He started with the Presidential Reference No.1 of 2022 (PLD 2022 SC 488) filed on 21.03.2022 in which the Court whilst observing its jurisdictional limits envisaged in the Constitution, rendered its interpretation of the democratic thresholds and criteria mandated under Article 63A of the Constitution.
The CJP added that pursuant to the judgment in Suo Motu Case No.4 of 2021 (PLD 2022 SC 306) the Court has restricted the invocation of its original suo motu jurisdiction by the Chief Justice of Pakistan to cases recommended by one or more Judges of the Court in order to check only egregious violations of Fundamental Rights or of the mandates of the Constitution. He further said that on the recommendation of judges the Court took suo motu notice of the order of dissolution of the National Assembly issued by the President on 03.04.2022 whilst accepting the advice of the former Prime Minister in Suo Motu Case No.1 of 2022. The impugned action was set aside after a five-day hearing.
He mentioned that the dissolution of the National Assembly was also challenged in petitions and the judgment is reported as Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) Vs. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2022 SC 290 and PLD 2022 SC 574). Similar notice was again taken in Suo Motu Case No.2 of 2022 to ensure compliance with the due process of law when amendments were brought about in the Exit From Pakistan (Control) Rules, 2010 by the incumbent Federal Government. By such amendments names of persons who were a part of the federal government but who were also the accused in criminal complaints or criminal proceedings for committing financial offences were removed from the Exit Control List without following due process requirements. Interim directions were issued and the matter is still sub-judice. He also mentioned that in all other matters of public interest the Court has acted only when presented with petitions from serious stakeholders who have challenged alleged unconstitutional Acts of Parliament and/or actions of constitutional functionaries.
He pointed that one such case where the Court intervened was the ruling issued by the then Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly on 22.07.2022. This ruling ignored the express words of Article 63A of the Constitution and the above-mentioned judgment of the Court in Presidential Reference No.1 of 2022 to discard ten votes cast by members of a political party in the election of the Chief Minister of the Province. After a three-day hearing the Court set aside the ruling of the Deputy Speaker and the result of the election on 26.07.2022. Justice Bandial said that this decision prompted a sharp reaction from the political quarters that were disappointed by the judgment. However, as the guardians of the Constitution, the Court and its Judges have exercised restraint and remained detached from such rhetoric. Nevertheless, it did surprise the Court that during the hearing of the case, the current and several past office bearers of the Bar approached the Bench with a request for constituting a Full Court on the urge of the respondent leader of the political party that is also the principal member of the coalition in the Federal Government.